Op/Ed: Trump budget cuts will be devastating to Chester County

By Kathi Cozzone, Chester County Commissioner

Chester County Commissioner Kathi Cozzone

It’s déjà vu all over again.  The numbers and the analyses are out and President Trump’s FY 2020 budget contains brutal cuts even more drastic than his 2018 budget.  This budget targets key federal programs that are vital to Pennsylvania counties which provide necessary human services, emergency services and community development programs.

Of significant concern here in Chester County are the proposed changes to Medicaid.  A $16.9 million loss could result if Medicaid Expansion is repealed, potentially affecting 26 percent of our claims for Medical Assistance through Pennsylvania’s HealthChoices program.  This would be devastating for our less fortunate neighbors who need the services provided by Chester County’s Mental Health, Drug & Alcohol and Children, Youth & Families departments.  Direct cuts to Medicaid would also negatively impact Emergency Medical Service (EMS) organizations by reducing payments for emergency services.  If your local ambulance organization, for instance, is not reimbursed for the services they provide, they may go out of business, leaving some of the population without coverage.

Our very security is at stake.   Trump’s budget cuts an overall $691 million from federal emergency preparedness grants. Chester County’s Department of Emergency Services receives over $1 million in emergency preparedness grant funding per year.  Losing that funding will have a huge impact on our ability to support public safety initiatives and planning, training and equipment for Chester County first responders.

The elimination of Community Development Block Grants (CDBG) and the HOME Investment Partnership program will have a dramatic impact on affordable housing, homelessness and infrastructure investment.  Funding overall for Community Development would decrease by 40 percent, and possibly more. Twenty non-profit agencies here in Chester County are funded by the CDBG program and we rely on those program funds to administer the County’s Community Revitalization Program.  The elimination of these programs would mean no funding for affordable housing projects.  In 2018, CDBG allowed us to serve 190 households and 2,101 persons directly.  The HOME program served 12 households and 48 affordable housing units were constructed at SteelTown Village in Phoenixville.  When a town can make infrastructure improvements, it helps small businesses and creates jobs.  In 2018, over 9,700 people in our community benefited from the County’s investment in these projects.  The Return on investment is substantial, measured in both economic terms AND in improving people’s lives.

Even our Veterans would be affected by Trump’s budget cuts, which includes a 90 percent reduction to the Veteran’s Supportive Housing program.  That means 347 veterans in Chester County who currently receive housing vouchers could be left out on the street?

Social programs aren’t the only casualties.  The Trump budget includes significant cuts to Small Business Association programs and increases in loan fees.  Small businesses are a key contributor to Chester County’s economic success and the impact will be felt not just by the businesses themselves but by all of the organizations that work to support the growth of Small Businesses.

These are just a few examples of the negative impact that Trump’s budget will have on our communities.  The primary goal of the FY 2020 Trump budget is to shift responsibility for many programs that traditionally have been funded by federal grants down to state and local governments.  Very preliminary estimates are a loss of funding to Chester County in excess of $20M and we would face hard choices between cutting services and raising taxes and would likely have to do both.  The full price would be paid by our most vulnerable citizens looking to feed their families, put a roof over their heads or get through a family crisis. Investment in our greatest resource, our people, is what leads to prosperity for all.

We must send a clear message to our leaders in Washington to reject the unjust and misguided priorities of the Trump budget.

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